Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
The pale golden hue might have been vibrant once, she couldn’t remember. Now it faded before her, replaced by the image of a man, a silhouette shimmering into focus. It was the same each time. The silence enveloped her like a cold blanket on a bleak day, robbing her of comfort as her anticipation mounted. She shouldn’t be here but bad decisions beget bad decisions.
The silence was slowly replaced by a faint crackling and the air; it had the smell of cinnamon. It was nauseating. It reminded her of well forgotten days, seasons of danger and providence. Seasons come and go, the return of some were more regrettable than others but something had to be done. Her knees were knocking, how cliche was that?
A sudden crack of thunder eradicated even the memory of silence. It reverberated in her heart for far longer than the sound lingered in her ears.
He was here, tall, beautiful, and strong. His effortless smile instantly saw fit to unnerve her. She’d summoned him, it was too late to go back.
“I am here!” He said, almost loud enough to be shouting. “What shall we vanquish today?”
She sighed, it was hard to speak, especially to him. “It’s not that simple. Things are never as simple as you say they are,” she accused.
His smile never wavered, this was a disaster.
“Things are always that simple when we work together my dear. Have you forgotten?” His smile was bright but his eyes pierced her soul. “There’s only one reason why you’d be unhappy to see me.” His smile was just as wide but it seemed to dim ever so slightly. She felt herself shrink a little bit. “He’s here, isn’t he?” He asked.
She nodded; her stomach was full of knots. She’d wanted so badly to avoid this.
“Shall we confront him together?” He asked, gently.
In one motion she was in his arms and her head was pressed against his chest. She felt the palm of his hand cradling her head. “It’s ok,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”
He was consoling her, but why? Only after asking herself the question did she feel the tears streaming down her face.
“He’s been here so long,” she heard herself say. Her voice broke as a sob racked her body. “He lives here now. He said calling you would only make things worse. That you don’t know how to let things be. He’s in my head! He made me hate you. He made me think you were just going to bring more pain.” His chin rested on the top of her head and she felt the tension melt as the words tumbled out of her mouth.
“Let’s end this.”
His tone was hard, hard enough to cause her to draw back and look up at him. He wasn’t smiling now.
“He’s under my bed,” she whispered.
“Am I now...?” The question hung in the air, laced with menace.
Oh no! He’d heard her, he’d followed her!
“You shouldn’t have called him but you know that. You’re smart enough to know at least that. Oh, he’s deluded you into feeling safe, I can see that. You are a fool. What good can his being here possibly yield? You were safer with me than you ever will be with him. He would thrust you into danger and throw caution to the wind! Be sensible, you need me. Or has his very presence made you lose all sense?”
The disdain dripped from his mouth. Had he always been this sarcastic, this demeaning? Why hadn’t she noticed? She stood taller now, clutching her savior, staring her tormentor in the face.
Her savior spoke now. “Tell him you want him to go.” His tone was rich and warm, so comforting. A stark contrast to her tormentors. His voice had terrorized her from under her bed for far too long. Why had she listened..? “ You masquerade as reason and logic but you are not those things! You are cold and morbid. Call him by his name and cast him out. Choose me as your champion.” Her hero directed the last to her.
She could feel his energy radiating through her. She stared into the eyes of her enemy- he was already fading. “Begone Fear, you are not welcome here!”
Fear hissed as the words took affect and his fading accelerated. He reached out, attempting to grab her but his hand passed right through. He had no hold on her anymore. His last words choked out as he disappeared. “When your courage fails I will return.” And then he was gone.
She sighed deeply, she hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath the entire time. She looked up at her hero; her Courage had returned and now Fear was gone.
He spoke to her, his voice calm and reassuring. “Fear can twist things out of proportion. It can make you blame yourself and even make you hate me. If you live with fear you will lose yourself. Fear can make you believe the truth is dangerous and that hiding from the facts is an actual protection. Promise me, promise you will always call on me when you need me.”
“I promise.”

Claire woke up at the sound of the front door opening and her mom walking in. Her shift must have ended early, it was still dark out. She had fallen asleep on the coach. Her old room was no longer the haven of her childhood. Things had been awkward since she’d come home for winter break. No, she had to admit, they’d been awkward for much longer than that. Claire looked past her mom to the picture hanging on the wall by the front door. It was a family photo: her, her mom, and Bill - her stepdad. She couldn’t look at the picture without getting nauseous. It wasn’t her fault.
Her mom smiled at her. It was a smile only a mother could achieve, it offered so much and demanded so little.
Claire closed her eyes, she’d promised.
“Mom,” She started but the lump, it was so big. He mom crossed the distance in an instant.
“Sweetheart,” her mom said. “What’s the matter? You can tell me anything.”
Her words, her tone, and her embrace were enough. Plus, she’d promised.
“I know this is gonna hurt but I have to tell you something. I’ve wanted to tell you for so long but I couldn’t find the courage. I have to tell you about Bill, what he me.”

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